Little knowledge is a dangerous thing. For all the love and respect we have towards the great Indian heritage, we can at least ensure that we have maximum knowledge about them (maximum, for would take an entire lifetime to have complete knowledge) in order to pass on to the coming generations. We’ve all grown up hearing and understanding the story of Mahabharata, but most of our knowledge about the epic is limited till the completion of the great war of Kurukshetra. What happened after the war was done? There were still prominent characters from the side of the Kauravas – such as Ashwatthama, Gandhari and even Dritharashtra who lived on. What happened of them? They say, the greatest agony in the world after a war lost is a war won. How did the Pandavas sustain after surviving the great tragedy of Kurukshetra?
As it was aimed, the Pandavas were indeed crowned the rulers of Hastinapur, with Yudhishtira being the King. However, the war and the loss of 100 sons had left Gandhari devastated, and she, in no mood to understand the cause behind the death of her sons or forgive the Pandavas for performing their duty towards fate; curses the annihilation of Krishna and the dynasty. The curse took 36 years to materialize, until which the Pandavas ruled Hastinapur peacefully. The 36 years marked the last phase of Dwapara Yuga, after which mass destruction and Kali Yuga as we know today followed.
As for Dritharashtra, the blind father of Kauravas, he tried to sustain himself despite of the agony within Hastinapura. While everyone treated him with consideration and respect, it is said that Bheema, the second of Pandavas, did not find that necessary. He would often keep reminding Dritharashtra how ruefully his sons were killed in battle, and how they deserved the fate they faced. This made Dritharashtra feel disrespected, owing to which he chose to leave the palace and spend his last mortal days in isolation. However, the blind king was not let go alone, for Gandhari, Sanjaya and Kunti (the mother of Pandavas) accompanied him to a forest. It is believed, all four of them chose to part with their mortal forms in a wildfire that engulfed the forest eventually.
Another character that survived the war was Ashwatthama, the son of Dronacharya who had supported the Kauravas during Kurukshetra. In fact, this man had been so merciless that even after the commencement of the war; he facilitated the cold blooded murder of numerous members of the Pandava camp through treachery. Enraged by this act of his, Krishna had a fierce conversation with Ashwatthama where it was learnt that the warrior was not afraid of death. As a result of that understanding, Krishna cursed him with immortality; and there have been multiple instances recurring on media that validate the possibility of Ashwatthama still being alive. In fact, he is one of the seven immortals referred in the Indian heritage. Regardless of the misdeeds associated with his identity, Ashwatthama is considered to be a blessing of Lord Shiva, and his warrior form is worshipped even today.
As for Lord Krishna himself, nothing saved him from the curse of Gandhari. After 36 years of war, unrest began inciting itself in Dwaraka, his home town. Sensing that end is near, Krishna tries migrating his entire population of subjects to Prabhasa, where a revolt breaks out. In the same process, a hunter shoots Krishna an arrow which leads to the mortal end of Lord Krishna, and he regains his original form as Lord Vishnu. Most versions of Mahabharata also believe that it was Ravana who incarnated as the hunter, and was destined to kill Krishna owing to the previous legacy of Ramayana.
The Pandavas weren’t late in sensing the end of Dwapara Yuga. Passing on the crown to Parikshit, Yudhistira and the rest of the Pandavas along with Draupadi begin walking (literally) towards heaven. They are fall off the mountain sequentially on the grounds of their sins in life, beginning with Draupadi. Yudhistira’s sins were so little that they earned him merely a trail through hell where he had to withhold the sight of his wife and brothers endure dire treatments. It all ends with the reference that all Pandavas and Draupadi unite in heaven, after their sins are avenged.
It’s as beautiful as a fairytale, yet as intense as the great epic we know it to be. Mahabharata has enchanted us as children, as adults and as elders, and will always continue to. It isn’t simply that they say Indian heritage is greater than any knowledge the world can claim to have.